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Tooth Brushing 101 — For Grownups

You may think you learned what you need to know about brushing your teeth when you were a youngster.

But guess what? Your mouth has changed since then, and because of that you need a different technique.

On The Early Show Monday, Dr. Jim Eisdorfer, a cosmetic dentist who practices in New York City, offered tips to help you brush up on brushing your teeth as an adult.

Kids are taught to start at the gums and brush away from them, because their teeth are still forming and they need to spread fluoride over all surfaces, but that doesn't apply for adults. Since our teeth are fully formed, the necessary technique is different.

For adults, the target for toothbrushes is the gums. Whatever we do on the actual teeth is a bonus, and far less important. The goal now is to minimize the risk of gum disease, and attack any gum decay that may occur. The secret is moving the brush effectively along the gum line, at a 45-degree angle.

When you're done — brush your tongue! Some people use scrapers to clear the tongue, but brushing is fine, according to Eisdorfer.

Proper tooth brushing should take about two minutes.

Use a soft brush. Anything harder, even "medium" brushes, can wear enamel away. Eisdorfer suggests softening the bristles under hot water as you begin, and not continuing to wet them as you proceed. Don't use much toothpaste. And change brushes every eight weeks. At that point, bristles are probably already too worn out to work well.

And don't forget to floss! Most people dislike doing but, says Eisdorfer, it's really the most effective tool to keep mouths healthy. Brushing simply doesn't get between the teeth effectively enough.

The American Dental Association says taking care of your mouth is like cleaning your house: You can't do a proper job in your mouth with a single tool, such as your toothbrush, any more than you can maintain your house with just a broom. You need other instruments. In the case of dental care, that includes floss.

Also, toothpastes are marketed now with numerous features. Eisdorfer says you need fluoride, of course. Otherwise, the only thing to look for is tartar control. Don't bother with whitening toothpaste. The better way to whiten is actually to mix peroxide and baking soda yourself.

For much more from the American Dental Association on proper oral hygiene, click here.

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